Diversity in Cancer Research: Getting Started
The most recent Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) guidelines released by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) include a new Core component called “Plan to Enhance Diversity (PED)”. Its purpose is to show both the membership and leadership of your NCI-designated cancer center reflect the population you serve. While there are no required data tables or metrics involved at the time, it is an opportunity for your center to show you are leading the efforts to enhance the diversity of your staff. Along with this new component, the NCI is dedicating a budget to enhancing diversity. You’ll be able to grow your diversity, equity, and inclusion programs with these CCSG funds.
More About the Plan to Enhance Diversity
The new narrative requirement asks you to share your center’s plan to enhance the participation of underrepresented populations in the research workforce and center leadership. Underrepresented populations are determined based on criteria set by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Under this plan, you must show your intentions to establish and support infrastructure and resources to support career-enhancing research opportunities for researchers from diverse backgrounds. This could be training or mentoring programs, or acquiring institutional resource commitments. Additionally, you must show how you will evaluate the success of your plan and the progress made.
Consider the Diversity of the Nation Versus Your Catchment Area
Diversity is no longer defined primarily by race and gender, but has broadened to include differences in cultural backgrounds, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, race, and gender. Dr. Henry Ciolino of the NCI indicated they are required to use the NIH definitions at this time, but centers can expand the definitions of underrepresented to discuss other gender categories, sexual orientation, and more distinct race and ethnic backgrounds.
The new guidelines request that you aim to have your membership represent the population of your catchment area and your leadership represent the population of the nation. The makeup of your catchment area and the United States could vastly differ from each other so to plan for both is undoubtedly a challenge. Here are some ways to prepare for this plan:
Leverage Your Institution’s Resources
Your center likely has a wide range of resources in place to help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some strategies to make the most of these resources include:
- Working with your university’s DEI office to develop new practices for the cancer center specifically and to show how you leverage institutional resources
- Joining university-sponsored workshops and events for DEI education
- Reaching out to learn about the benefits of hiring a DEI administrator specifically for your department
- Discussing the pros and cons of cluster hiring, a method of hiring used to increase faculty diversity, and how you could potentially incorporate this practice into the cancer center to promote recruitment and retention
- Requesting funding to support initiatives benefitting the cancer center and the university as a whole
Collaborate With Your Peers
NCI-designated cancer centers are a collaborative group. Institutions are willing to share what has been done well and what remains a challenge. For example:
- University of Oregon offers the Presidential Undergraduate Research Scholars (PURS) program, emphasizing in engaging undergraduate students underrepresented in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and other subjects
- University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) provides opportunities for underrepresented minorities through mentorship and training programs and a diversity steering committee. UCSF also works with its community to provide engagement opportunities for underrepresented and under resourced groups age 18 and under
- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) is one of the first to practice cluster hiring at a cancer center
Members of Fred Hutch also created the Cancer Center DEI Network. Its goal is to “develop diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics, and share best practices on recruitment and diversity programs” in cancer centers.
Use Advarra EVAL to Track Your Efforts
Advarra’s Research Evaluation System (EVAL) offers ways for you to track and narrate your institution’s efforts to promote diversity in your membership and leadership. Whether it’s grants from individual donors or investments from your university, you can track how your dollars are spent to support research and publications, mentoring the future generation, community projects, and more. You will be evaluated based on your commitment to these efforts and the progress you make. Having a robust plan today is your opportunity to set and elevate the standards for future CCSG support.